The Evolution of Calpernia Tate

Remember being eleven and a half – almost twelve?  Today, girls that age could be dating, wearing make-up, drooling over the Jonas brothers – but in The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, Jacqueline Kelly’s Newbery Award Honor Book –  you’ll travel back to the turn of the twentieth century when girls received grades on deportment and practiced walking around with books on their heads to improve posture…

“I find that actually reading the book is a much more effective way of absorbing it…”

In 1899, living  on a pecan farm in Texas with 6 brothers, parents, assorted dogs, cats, and a grandfather who was a Civil War veteran and a founding member of the National Geographic Society, Calpurnia discovers she’s “a regular naturalist in the making.” Her grandfather awakens and nurtures her interest in science, cultivating Calpurnia’s curiosity and supplementing her education with scientific experiments and observations that would make the AAUW advocates for young women in science  proud.

hairy vetch

Each chapter opens with a quotation from Darwin’s On the Origin of the Species – a book banned from her local library – but hidden away in her grandfather’s home collection.  The two become happy conspirators and adventurers studying Nature, even discovering a new species of the hairy vetch plant.

The story follows A Little House on the Prairie style, with colorful historical notes, and some Walton family flavor.  Although targeted to a young audience, Kelly’s message is clear – and adults may appreciate the nuances…

“It was too bad, but sometimes a little knowledge could ruin your whole day…”